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John StonestreetIn my vocation of helper, I sometimes have to do difficult things.  It’s not easy for me as a Christian to point out that the Church has failed the culture, but it has.  Keith Getty’s song “In Christ Alone” and Rachel Held Evans’ blog on why the millennials are leaving the church were already added to my Facebook page.  John Stonestreet’s commentary reminds us that Jesus — as He defines Himself and what He has done for us — is all that matters.  Thank you, sir!  As for the rest of you, tell me.  Do you agree with John who writes:

Recently, the Presbyterian Church (USA) dropped the hugely popular hymn, “In Christ Alone,” from its hymnal after its authors, Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, refused to omit a reference to Jesus satisfying the wrath of God.

In a powerful response over at First Things, which we’ll link to at BreakPoint.org, Colson Center chairman Timothy George quotes Richard Niebuhr who, back in the 1930s, described this kind of revisionist Protestantism as a religion in which “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

The response from the PCUSA, that their problem was not with God’s wrath but with the idea that Christ’s death satisfied God’s wrath, doesn’t change the fundamental problem of what George calls “squishy” theology. Theology is supposed to be true, not palatable.

Along these lines, maybe you’ve seen the recent viral opinion piece on CNN by my friend, Christian blogger and author Rachel Held Evans. In it, Evans offers her answers to the truly important question, “why are millennials leaving the Church?”

To counter the exodus of young people from American churches, Evans says it’s time to own up to our shortcomings and give millennials what they really want—not a change in style but a change in substance. The answer to attracting millennials, she writes, is NOT “hipper worship bands” or handing out “lattés,” but actually helping them find Jesus.

Amen. I couldn’t agree more.

Then she goes on, “[the Church is] too political, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to [LGBT] people.” Well, okay—anytime political programs co-opt our faith, or we ignore the needy and fail to love those with whom we disagree, we do the Gospel of Christ great harm.

But when she writes that attracting millennials to Jesus involves “an end to the culture wars,” “a truce between science and faith,” being less “exclusive” with less emphasis on sex, without “predetermined answers” to life’s questions, now I want to ask–are we still talking about the Jesus of biblical Christianity?

The attempt to re-make Jesus to be more palatable to modern scientific and especially sexual sensibilities has been tried before. In fact, it’s the reason Niebuhr said that brilliant line that I quoted earlier.

He watched as the redefining “Jesus Project” gave us mainline Protestantism, which promotes virtually everything on Evans’ list for millennials. The acceptance of homosexuality, a passion for the environment, prioritizing so-called “social justice” over transformational truth are all embodied in denominations like the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA).

But religious millennials aren’t flocking to mainline Protestant congregations. Mainline churches as a whole have suffered withering declines in the last few decades—especially among the young. What gives?

Well, in an another essay which appeared in First Things over twenty years ago, a trio of Christian researchers offered their theory on what’s behind the long, slow hemorrhage of mainline Protestant churches:

“In our study,” they wrote, “the single best predictor of church participation turned out Newsletter_Gen_180x180_B to be belief—orthodox Christian belief, and especially the teaching that a person can be saved only through Jesus Christ.” This, said the researchers, was not (and I add, is still not) a teaching of mainline Protestantism. As a dwindling denomination rejects a hymn which proclaims salvation “in Christ alone,” this research sounds prophetic.

Evans is right that evangelical Christianity is responsible in many ways for the exodus of millennials. But ditching the Church’s unpalatable “old-fashioned” beliefs to become more “relevant” to the young won’t bring them back.

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bride & groom in countryMarriage is what it is.  Define it any other way and it is not.  Those who want to experiment with a different kind of arrangement should come up with a new word.  “Marriage” is already taken.

Marriage is defined by the One who created it.  That would be God.

Marriage is time-honored for a reason.  It benefits men, women, children and civilization itself.

Marriage, reasoned the Greeks, was upheld for the good of the state.

Proponents of homosexuality often point to ancient Greece as a culture that embraced men with men and women with women.   But Robert R. Reilly, writing for MercatorNet (3-11-13), has helped me understand that the great classical philosophers would have regarded such pairings as destructive for society.  Socrates and Plato condemned homosexual acts as “unnatural.”  The notion that someone was a “homosexual” for life — or found his identity in this behavior — would have struck them as quite odd.  The practice of sodomy was accepted between an adult male and a young boy, but only temporarily because the youth was expected to get married and start a family as soon as he reached maturity.

Plato called the act of men with men “contrary to nature” and “due to unbridled lust.”  Socrates loathed sodomy, noting that it is the practice of one enslaved to his passions rather than one who seeks the good of others.  “The lesson,” writes Reilly, “is clear.  Once Eros is released from the bonds of family . . . passions can possess the soul.  Giving in to them is a form of madness because erotic desire is not directed toward any end that can satisfy it.  It is insatiable.”

“That which causes evil in the soul,” said Plato, will ultimately result in political disorder.   Plato understood the unbridled practice of sodomy to cause such evil and, thus, bring chaos to a nation built on order and logic.

It is for this reason that Greek philosophers spoke of the virtues of chastity and procreation within marriage.  Aristotle described man and woman together in family without which the rest of society cannot exist.

Reilly explains, “Without family, there are no villages, which are associations of families, and without villages, there is no polis.  ‘Every state is [primarily] composed of households,’ Aristotle asserts.  In other words, without households – meaning husbands and wives together in families – there is no state.  In this sense, the family is the pre-political institution.  The state does not make marriage possible; marriage makes the state possible.  Homosexual marriage would have struck Aristotle as an absurdity since you could not found a polity on its necessarily sterile relations.  This is why the state has a legitimate interest in marriage, because, without it, it has no future.”

The Greeks understood the importance of marriage which is, as they saw it, the pairing of male and female as husband and wife.  With that in mind, Reilly explains, “then chastity becomes the indispensable political principle because it is the virtue which regulates and makes possible the family – the cornerstone unit of the polis.  Without the practice of this virtue, the family becomes inconceivable.  Without it, the family disintegrates.”

“Homosexual” marriage, to Aristotle, would have been a self-contradiction.  Perhaps that is why the word “homosexuality” did not exist in Greek, or any other language, until the late 19th century.  Why would it?  Truth dictates that “homosexual” is an oxymoron.

Jesus is Truth.  He is also Love and Life.  He instituted the agape love of marriage so that life might abound.  He mourns the consequences of sinful choices.  He does not rejoice in the pain that comes from confusion and slavery to selfish passion.  But, He is faithful to the repentant who call upon His name.

Sin deceives.  It distorts the meaning of love and alters relationships.  But, the wisdom of Truth prevails.

The Greeks might not have acknowledged the source of truth, but they saw the wisdom of it.

Appreciation to Robert R. Reilly, MercatorNet, 3-11-2013

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prison cellIs it possible to change our thinking and behavior?  Leave bad habits behind?  Resist evil and despair?

Yes.

Evidence of change is all around me.  For some, change has come with maturity or wisdom gained from experience.  Some literally kicked and screamed all the way to a new place in their life where change took them by surprise.  Some are being changed through pain and suffering.  Others are changing, but only after falling into the darkness of bitter despair.

Travis is one of them.  Travis had fallen so deeply into the pit that he could never pull himself out.  I believe that Jesus literally reached down into that pit to lift Travis upward.  The circumstances in which Travis finds himself are grave.  He is serving 20 years in a federal penitentiary without parole.  Travis is in a place of shame but, face to face with his Savior, true freedom and dignity are being restored.

What follows is a letter from Travis:

Often, people ask, “Why did you throw everything away to pursue a life on drugs?  You threw away your relationships with good friends.  You threw away your good reputation.  You threw away the respect of your family.  You threw away everything that you ever worked hard for.  Why?”

I have never been able to come up with a rational answer to these questions.  Sin, I’ve figured out, is always irrational.  Sin doesn’t consider the consequences.  It just leads us to say, “I want more.”  In my case, becoming addicted to meth was that sin that gave Satan a strong foothold in my life.

I’ve come to see things a little more clearly today.  In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.”  Satan wants to steal my joy.  He wants to steal my freedom.  He wants to kill and destroy everything that makes my life worth living: my relationships, my peace, my sanity.  He will use any means: deception, lying, and false promises to keep me from enjoy God’s plan for my life.

When I was enslaved to my sin of addiction it was evident that something was wrong with me.  Not everyone noticed, however, because I put on a good mask.  But, my life was full of filthiness.  My thoughts, speech, conduct, and even my house was filthy.  I would find a lewd or filthy element in any situation.

Satan was working to steal my morals, relationships, will, and dignity.  In the end, Satan wanted my life.

Once I started doing meth, I experienced dreams and visions.  While driving on a particular curve into town, I imagined taking my own life.  Perhaps, I thought, it would relieve the pain I was experiencing.

I didn’t like the person I had become.  A couple of girlfriends tried to help get me sober.  One helped me escape to her family’s cabin.  She would help me detox and get sober.  I would sleep, eat, and begin to act normal… only to return to my habit five days later when I got home.  Another girl begged me to get sober.  She wanted my family to help.  I said, “No!”  How could I face the people that had raised me so well?  The last thing I wanted to do was admit I was a failure.  I thought I could do it on my own.”

Travis is suffering the terrible consequences of his addiction and sinful ways.  He is separated from his family and shamed by incarceration.  Although his faith has grown, he is taunted by unbelievers.  He has explained to me that despair comes often to visit, yet the mercies of God really are new every morning.

Those mercies recently came through a fellow prisoner.  Travis was feeling especially low at Christmastime when, unexpectedly, he crossed paths with a man he had met early in his imprisonment.  Travis had befriended that man and encouraged him with words of hope.  The man apparently never forgot Travis and, in a moment of darkness, the man reappeared as a ray of light with reciprocal words of encouragement.  “You made a difference,” the man told him.  “You helped me get through a tough time.”  Travis was reminded that Jesus knows just what we need when we need it most.

Travis is painfully aware that Satan, in partnership with his own sinful nature, is a powerful force.  Alone, Travis cannot defeat the liar and thief.  But, another force is working in Travis’ life.  It is the force of love.  Forgiveness.  Hope and new life.  Satan wants to steal Travis’ soul, but Jesus Christ died for that soul.  He has already won for Travis the victory over sin and death.  Victory is hard to see through the veil of depression and discouragement; even so, I believe that the Holy Spirit has been at work in Travis adjusting his perspective and restoring the dignity of his personhood.

Perhaps prison is the Potter’s wheel where Travis is being carefully shaped as a vessel for noble service.  I really do believe that Travis sees himself a different man than when he stood haughtily before the federal judge.  As a different man, he will find himself at odds with the world.

In that world, Satan will continue to press on Travis.  Satan doesn’t want change.  He wants Travis captive to his sinful nature.  He wants him haughty.  Dependent on self, yet burdened by failure.  But, in Christ, Travis is no longer bound to old sins and failures.  In Christ, Satan holds no lasting power over Travis.

Travis told me,

Addiction never filled me up.  I was never satisfied.  The thief really does come to steal, kill and destroy, but read the rest of the passage!  Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

Is change possible?  God says it is.

“Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  Put away falsehood, speak the truth with your neighbor . . . give no opportunity to the devil . . . Let all bitterness and wrath and anger . . . be put away from you . . .” (Ephesians 4:22-32).

Because change is possible, Travis can live as the beloved son of God in Christ that he is.   He can leave the filthiness and foolish talk and crude joking behind.  He was in darkness, but now he is in the light of the Lord.  He can try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.  Expose deception.  Be filled with the Spirit.  Give thanks. (Ephesians 5:1-21).

Yes, echoes Travis,

Thanks be to God!”

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robert knightThe following is excerpted from “The Allure of the Lie” by Robert Knight.  It’s worthy of your read.

We are hip-deep in a culture of lying. It’s the coin of the realm for liberal politicians, the “mainstream” media and Hollywood, all of whom cover for each other. Since an accusation of lying amounts to fighting words, journalists reporting the lies tend to use softer terms, such as prevarication, dissembling, not forthcoming, not fully disclosed, misleading, redirecting, etc.

Lying often is accomplished with euphemisms. Government spending is “investment.” Raising taxes is “revenue reform.” Torture is sanitized as “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Global warming is morphing into “climate change” to accommodate obvious departures from the warming scenario. Gambling is “gaming.” Defense of religious freedom is a “war on women.” There’s a slew of terms invented to validate sexual immorality. The sin of sodomy became homosexuality and then merely gay. Adultery became “finding oneself,” “open marriage” or “swinging.” Prostitutes are “commercial sex workers.” Two men – with no bride – are considered “married.” Pornography became “erotica.” And abortion – the killing of unborn children – is “choice.”

The culture of lying has become so entrenched in American political culture that any deviation is swiftly punished. People who question any part of the theory of man-caused global warming, for instance, are branded “deniers.”  End of discussion. Question the junk science behind the “born gay” myth and you’re a “hater.” If you believe God created marriage as the union of a man and a woman, you’re not only a hater but a bigot. If you favor photo ID laws to thwart fraud, you want to “suppress the minority vote.” If you question the morality or wisdom of putting women into combat, you’re against “equality.”

Often, liberal policies are sustained by repeated citations of a single study or studies, however flawed.  The granddaddy of those is Alfred C. Kinsey’s fraudulaent sex studies . . . .

One of the biggest lies in recent years is that there are no real biological differences between men and women – that masculinity and femininity are artificial social constructs. The latest fallout from this departure from reality is the Pentagon’s opening the military to homosexuality and putting women into combat. We’re told that everyone in the armed forces thinks this is wonderful. Sure they do. It would be a career-ender in this culture of lying to say otherwise.

The culture of lying depends heavily on cooked studies, weasel words and a compliant media that parrots them without examination. It’s a house of cards that’s waiting for a gentle breeze of truth to blow it over.

As G.K. Chesterton observed, “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

Robert Knight is a Senior Fellow for the American Civil Rights Union
and contributor to The Washington Times.
He wrote this article following Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s
testimony before Congress.
I encourage you to read the complete article here

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More Americans now commit suicide than die in car accidents.  “People are despairing in America,” writes Joseph Farah, “more than ever before.”

It would be easy, notes Farah, to blame the suicide epidemic on the economy.  But, that’s not how he sees it.  People may be struggling financially, but they’re not ending their lives because they lack food and shelter or toys and gadgets.

“I believe the trend reflects a deep and growing spiritual emptiness in a culture that is more depraved than ever before,” writes Farah.  “Too many people just don’t find any meaning in life.”

We should all, as Farah advices, “think about it.”  He continues:

We are told from the youngest age in state-run schools that human beings are merely the result of billions of years of evolution from lower life forms and random mutations.  There is no God who loves us and to whom we are accountable.  There are no laws higher than those that government imposes on us – no sin.  No ultimate, objective moral code.  In fact, human beings are a blight on the planet.  It would be better off without us – or at least with a lot fewer of us polluting the air with carbon dioxide and overheating the earth.

. . . Prayer and Bible reading are prohibited, but explicit instruction on how to have promiscuous sex without consequences is mandated.

Abortion is subsidized, while adoption is prohibitively expensive in the unlikely event you can find a child to adopt.

Increasingly, the state is sticking its nose into what we eat, what we say, how we raise our children – even what we believe.

Government is fine with pornography.  But purity and abstinence are discouraged.

In other words, right is wrong, up is down, black is white, left is right.  And we sit here and wonder why people are killing themselves.

When government replaces God in the lives of people, their lives become empty.  They become subjects of the state, rather than citizens endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights – among those being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

When government becomes the ultimate authority in our lives and practices lawlessness, disregarding routinely the Constitution from which it derives its limited authority, I would suggest to you this is a much bigger cause for despair and powerlessness.

There is a solution to this problem.  But it’s not a top-down answer.  It’s a bottom-up solution.  Americans need to get right with God.

They need to find out what He requires of them, why He created them, and how much He loves them.

They need to have a genuine repentance for having turned away from Him and whored after false gods and pursuits.

If Americans did this, they wouldn’t be taking their own lives in record numbers.

Thank you, Joseph Farah.  It is a privilege to reprint a portion of your column.  May it be used to spark dialogue in families, neighborhoods, schools, places of business, law offices, and congregations.

Joseph Farah is a nationally syndicated columnist.
I excerpted  from his commentary,
“What happens when government replaces God”
which appeared in October 1 edition of The Washington Times

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Testifying before U.S. Congress, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) President Matthew Harrison said: “Religious people determine what violates their consciences, not the federal government.”  That perspective will be tested in several courtrooms.

If the Health and Human Services (HHS) health care mandate is not overturned, our children and grandchildren will have less religious freedom than their parents and grandparents did.  The stakes could not be higher for Lutheran Christians privileged to live in the United States of America.

The LCMS is seriously concerned.  The health care legislation allows the government to define not only what a church is but also what a church is free to do, or not to do.  You see, the free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights is more than the freedom to gather with others for worship.  It is more correctly the freedom to live and speak our faith out in the community.  With the health care mandate, government is infringing on our religious freedom and rights of conscience.  It falsely defines Christian charity as limited only to work within our own church walls.  (Read more about “Charity and Compassion Outside the Church” in the next post.)

The HHS mandate directs many religious groups and institutions to offer their employees coverage for contraception and drugs that result in the death of a preborn child regardless of whether or not that religious group believes abortion or sterilization is obedient to God as the Creator of life.  This is a direct violation of our religious liberties and our rights of conscience guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

The largest historical question for my church body, the LCMS, is this: Does the federal government have the power to impose a heavy fine or tax on those religious groups who refuse to provide for their employees services that violate their moral and religious principles?  (Source: President Matthew Harrison on Youtube, and Timothy S. Goeglein in The Lutheran Witness, 9/2012)

The LCMS believes this matter is so crucial that it has set up a special website with the goal of providing Christian citizens of the United States with helpful resources.  Please take the time to visit www.lcms.org/freetobefaithful Listen to President Harrison express his grave concerns.  Then, respond by speaking up to your legislators, writing letters-to-the-editor, and talking to your family and neighbors.

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Monday, September 17, is the anniversary of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.  ParentalRights.org urges us to visit the offices of our senators.  Why?

Proponents of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities (CRPD) are pushing for a September vote in the Senate.  This treaty, writes Michael Farris, is bad news for American sovereignty and American families.

Farris, president of ParentalRights.org suggests the following “talking points” should you write, call or visit your Senator:

  • Under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, the CRPD will become the “supreme law of the land,” overriding anythin to the contrary in local, state, or federal law.
  • Parents of disabled children know better than anyone what it is like to have bureaucrats and officials second-guessing their every decision.  Article 7 of the CRPD will take away their right to be the ultimate decision makers for their child.
  • The Understandings adopted by the Senate are poorly worded and do not have the legal effect proponents claim they will.  The so-called “private action” understanding, for instance, does not uphold “current” U.S. law.  Omission of the word “current” means the U.S. will be obligated to make changes in our law in order to fulfill our commitment under the treaty.
  • Ratifying the CRPD would be the first time we have obligated our nation to recognize social, economic, and cultural entitlements and privileges as “rights” under domestic law.

For more information, visit Parentalrights.org

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